The old Tiguan (pronounced Tee-gwan) was a much-loved staple of the VW range, leaving big boots for the new model to fill when it was pensioned off earlier in the year.
In fact, the Tiguan is such an integral part of the Volkswagen model line-up that the company expects it to be its third best-selling model after the Polo and Golf.
Speaking of which, the Tiguan’s MQB mechanical underpinnings are the same as the Golf and the Passat, a move that might bring economies of scale and a wide range of engine options but does so at the risk of leaving it feeling a bit generic and, dare I say it, boring.
A good first impression
Despite my reservations, first impressions are good. The exterior looks like that of a much more expensive car (not that the Tiguan could ever be considered a budget choice) and the interior reinforces the feeling that the Volkswagen is very much the premium option in its class.
There might be little evidence of design innovation but what there is is beautifully done and it’s crammed with high technology. Audi, which is, you will remember, part of the same group, must be very proud of its little brother.
My test car for the week was fitted with the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, an option that suits the 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system perfectly. The 4MOTION system is a sophisticated one that can divert 100% of the drive to the rear wheels if necessary and the driver can pre-select different driving modes via a rotary controller on the centre console.
That, plus the 11mm life that all the four-wheel-drive variants enjoy, makes the Tiguan a genuine off-roader that is capable of dealing with almost anything that real owners will throw at it in the real world - and if they find the standard model too limiting they can pay £350 for an Outdoor Pack that comprises a pair of off-road bumpers that increase the approach and departures angles to 24 degrees.
Your £350 also adds chrome sill covers to prevent muddy feet scratching the paintwork as you get in and out of the car, plus increased underbody protection for the engine and gearbox.
It drives very well indeed
While its off road credentials are solid, the road is where the Tiguan will spend most of its time and so it’s no surprise to find that it drives very well indeed.
The upmarket feel is backed up by some heavy-duty NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) suppression; noise levels are low, even at speed and under hard acceleration, and the 148bhp diesel engine offers strong performance.
The four-wheel-drive system and the automatic DSG gearbox see the fuel consumption rise by about 10mpg compared to the same car fitted with front-wheel-drive and a manual gearbox but that loss of fuel efficiency is a price I’d be happy to pay for the increased versatility and ease of use they offer.
I found the ride to be beautifully balanced between performance and comfort; too often the balance lies too far in one direction (generally performance, which gives a needlessly harsh ride…) but Volkswagen has judged this perfectly even when it is riding on 19-inch wheels and 50-series, low-profile tyres.
While the Tiguan might not be an obvious choice for the keen driver I found that there was plenty of fun to be had around the twisting North Walian roads around my home, proving that buying a sensible family car doesn’t automatically rule out solo, B-road fun.
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A practical appeal
Yet, despite the dynamic fun, practicality is at the heart of the Tiguan’s appeal; to give you just one example, the rear seats can slide forwards and backwards by up to 170mm, a clever trick that makes it easy to prioritise rear legroom or boot space, depending on who or what you’re carrying: with the rear seats pushed all the way back the boot holds 550 litres, which increases to a whopping 615 litres with the seats fully forward.
That’s a useful increase but even the lower figure makes for a huge boot that few owners are ever likely to find is too small to meet their everyday needs.
I mentioned earlier that the Tiguan isn’t a cheap car. The basic list price of my one-down-from-the-top SEL trim level test car was almost £33,000. The VW press office had then added a sprinkling of extras (touchscreen sat-nav telephone connectivity at £1,365, keyless entry and an electric boot at £655, a heated steering wheel at £110, heated leather seats at £1,475, heated outer rear seats at £215, the aforementioned outdoor pack at £350, tyre pressure monitoring at £130, Atlantic blue paint at £560, and dynamic chassis control at £790) that took the overall price to a lofty £38,460.
That’s a lot of money for a five-seat SUV, no matter how nice it looks or how well it drives. Still, there are deals to be had, which might ease the pain somewhat; carwow suggests that savings of over £3,000 per car are available, which would sweeten the pill a little.
If you can afford it, the Tiguan is likely to be the most satisfying car to own in its class; it’s beautifully built, highly practical, great to drive, and draws admiring glances wherever you go.
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Power – 148bhp
Torque – 251 lb ft
0-62mph – 9.3 seconds
Top speed – 124mph
Kerb weight – 1,851kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 49.6mpg
CO2 emissions –149g/km
VED class – Band F
Towing capacity (braked) – 2,500kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 750kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles (another one year costs £390, and another two years costs an extra £930)
Price – £32,810
Price as tested - £38,460
The Renault Kadjar feels much cheaper than the Tiguan but then it is much cheaper. It’s also much nicer car to drive.
The best of the rest
The Hyundai Tucson has a nicer interior than the Kadjar (although it isn’t as nice as that of the Tiguan) and comes with a 5-year warranty, making it a very sensible choice for the canny motorist.
If you need a genuine off-roader, then the Land Rover Discovery Sport is worth a look. Its road manners might not be outstanding but there is nothing to touch it in the rough.
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